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Trolling: Not About Trolls. About You.

Online personal attacks are easy to deal with. Simply apply the question, “True or false?” Is this true? Does it apply to me? Or not?

If, no, easy-peasy. If, yes, well, you’ve got work to do. The most interesting response is, “I don’t know,” or even an ambivalent, “Um…” both of which are more common than you think.

To me, if a troll writes, “You’re a big fat ugly bitch and whore!” on someone’s web site and the owner goes, “I don’t know,” or worse, “What if it’s true?” to the true-or-false test, alarm bells go off, screaming, “Dangerously low self-esteem!”

There should be alarm bells going off for you too, if you can’t shrug off troll attacks.

What people write about you has absolutely nothing to do with you.
Their words always say more about their own character, than they do yours.

“What if others believe them?” is the most common fear.

Nasty personal attacks, heck, even silkily couched personal attacks, are obvious. You don’t need to be a professor in psychology.

Anyone who decides to treat such comments as fact, without knowing you personally AND coming to you directly for verification, is not worth worrying about, or even knowing.

Actions, or lack thereof, speak volumes about a person’s character.

Thank the trolls! They’re helping you sort the shit people from the good people you want in your life.

How about lies? Blatant untruths written in prominent sites, far from your sphere of awareness and control, with an audience of hundreds, if not thousands, of gullible, idle gossipmongers?

Same rules. True or false?

You can’t control what people write about you.
You can’t control what people believe about you.

I’m not saying it won’t hurt. Yes, it will. For a day or two, maybe a week, ideally less. But it shouldn’t come close to destroying you or driving you to suicide.

If it does, my friend, it’s not the trolls who have a problem, you do.

The trolls have merely triggered one or many severe psychological and emotional wounds in you that need to be faced and resolved, and those are what’s killing you. Not the trolls.

Genuine friends and supporters will never, ever number in the hundreds or thousands. You’d have to be extremely lucky to get into the tens.

There will only ever be a small, if not tiny, handful of people who truly know, honour, cherish and love you for who you truly are, as you are, warts and all.

These are the people who matter most. Focus on them!
Then there is your tribe. Focus on them!

These are the people who matter a billion times more than any troll and they deserve your gratitude, time and attention.

Invest your resources on those who matter, who make a difference in your life.
Don’t squander and waste on those who only seek to destroy you.

The age of the Internet should be renamed the age of the troll, for online anonymity has done more to feed the raging emptiness of the hateful lost than any other modern invention.

Today, the more you rise from the rank and file of the faceless anonymous to becoming a person—an actual person! With a name, a face and a story to tell!—with something to give, the more you will attract the attention of the hateful lost, for they hate their lives and existence even more than they claim to hate you.

That is why they believe they stand to gain from channelling hate and malice towards people they don’t know, or even care to know.

One way of telling if you are vulnerable to trolls is to read trolling comments in other web sites. Plenty to be found in online newspapers.

Read and observe your emotional reactions. Any disempowering emotional reaction at reading spiteful comments not directed at you is an indication of susceptibility. Take note of your reactions and examine why. Some part(s) of your psyche identified with the comments. You need to identify it/them.

Reading comments directed at others will only work to a point. Sooner or later, the ultimate test and best training ground is to deal with your own.

If you’re a relatively new blogger with few comments, you get to start out nice and slow.

If, however, you are already dealing with trolls and are struggling emotionally, I recommend the complete opposite course of action—back off and switch off. Do not engage.

Susceptibility doesn’t make trolling comments true. What it does mean is you have unresolved psychological and emotional patterns that cause you to erroneously interpret and accept such comments as true, when they are not. Reality distortion on a psychological level.

You may need professional help. I say this because it is fact that several people, adults and children alike, have already committed suicide as a result of trolling. There is help. Utilise it.

In past iterations of my blog where I did get unpleasant comments, some nasty, I’ve always chosen to respond kindly, lightly and jovially, though usually very briefly.

At the time, it was a discipline for me. It is far too easy to respond to spite in kind, and far more difficult to stop, pull back and examine my reasons for desiring to retaliate, reframe my experience and return with a compassionate and constructive focus. Therefore, it made good practice.

Having said that, I’ve never faced bona-fide trolls, so I can’t say if this will be a practical response. I doubt so, especially en-masse. It would be a waste of time and energy.

Ideally, never respond to a troll, and most definitely never as a direct reply. Nothing you say will improve the situation, or change their mind.

Some bloggers have responded to trolls indirectly in their writing. If you choose to do that, don’t do it out of anger, vindictiveness or worst of all, self-defence. As The Producers sang, “Keep it light! Keep it bright! Keep it gay!”

Don’t sink to the depths of anger and hate that trolls wallow in. Won’t help you and definitely won’t help your readers!

Words have power. To kill. To heal.

However you have even greater powers—to transmute, to reframe. To understand, to empathise. To forgive.

Remember that the only people who can willingly choose to inflict such hurt on others, have themselves been grievously hurt. We have all hurt others with our words when we ourselves were wounded.

Every time you feel tempted to hate and dehumanise trolls for what they have done, realise that you are taking the very same steps they did to end up where they are today.

It is too easy to hate in return. Be better than that.

Be rational.
Be composed.
Be compassionate.

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Dear Reader, I Need Your Help.

I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.
— John Cheever

For a long time, I assumed my writing to be far too abstract and esoteric to be of interest to others.

Thus, I am humbled to be proven wrong, and I am grateful to the small but regular following here on this blog.

I have a request to make—I would like to open up a channel of communication between you and I, reader and writer.

I would like to begin with a simple questionnaire.

Your opinion matters. As Anthony Liccione aptly said, “A writer is nothing without a reader.”

I have reached the point in my writing where I need to know more about what you want to know more of, so that I can improve upon what I offer.

I hope you can spare some time in your busy day to answer five questions.

I appreciate any input you have offer, and I look forward to reading your response.

Thank you.

If the form below does not load, please click here.

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Goodwill, Change & The World.

Shower everyone you meet with goodwill. Not for benefit to yourself, though the benefits are real1, but to benefit others.

Do not underestimate the power of a genuine smile and greeting, even a friendly wave, given with all the goodwill and compassion you can muster in your heart and being.

“It’s not like they feel anything—it’s only in my head, nor will it change anything in their life,” you may argue. True, you can’t know for sure.

Yet I believe such a simple act may be the first step to changing our world for the better. Actions reveal intent, and change begins with what we choose to put out into our world, every day.

So, what will you put out into the world today?

1 Buchanan, K. E., & Bardi, A. (2010). Acts of kindness and acts of novelty affect life satisfaction. The Journal of social psychology, 150(3), 235-237.

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Root Causality Is Not About Blame.

The processes of self mastery and awareness are not about placing blame for present circumstances.

Awareness usually requires you to drill down to the root cause(s) of your issues and yes, many times that root cause will be some person or some event.

Root causality is so named because a root cause is the starting point for a chain reaction of choices and events that have snowballed into your present circumstance.

Having a target to blame is not the same as defining a root cause.

For example, perhaps you blame your parents for doing, or not doing, certain things, thus impacting you detrimentally. You may think, “Root cause = parents!”

Nope.

Your parents aren’t the root cause. An unconscious perspective of yours, unacknowledged and unaddressed from childhood, that impacted your perceptions of your parents’ actions, or lack thereof, is the root cause.

It always comes back to self. Hence, self mastery.

An interesting fact about root causality—it is not required. Root causality is only the means to an end.

You can resolve psychological and emotional issues without ever returning to the past, because ultimately what matters is the now. That you face up to the reality of your here and now, and do what you need to do.

Most of us aren’t that adept though. Hence, we require the formulaic approach of:

  • First fronting up to what we fear to face in our past, and
  • Then fronting up to what we fear to face in our present, and
  • Finally, doing what we need to do to resolve our issue(s).

But first you must get this straight—you seek your past for the sole purpose of letting it go.

The aim of the exercise is not to absolve yourself of responsibility by placing blame, “See! THAT’s why!” However tempting it is.

Anger is to be expected. The healing process often begins with the acknowledgement and release of a plethora of repressed emotions. You will be angry, rage even. You will grieve. This is natural. And the initial stages of anger and grief will look, sound and feel like blame but there is a crucial difference.

Blame is a stuck state of being. A self created psychological and emotional imprisonment. Stuck in one point, or period, in time so emotionally charged that it is distorted. Memory is unreliable.

In healing, we move through the anger, grief and blame, and beyond to understanding, forgiveness and gratitude.

  • Understanding happens when you are able to remove emotional distortion to view events objectively.
  • Forgiveness happens when you accept responsibility for every thought and emotion you experienced.
  • Gratitude happens when you realise just how much better and stronger a person you have become as a result of your suffering.

That is the true potential of seeking root causality through awareness and self mastery—spiritual independence through self empowerment.

Blame is a state of victimhood. Blame says, “I’m not responsible for what happens in my life.”

You may not have chosen to be born with a debilitating disability, to an abusive family, or in abject poverty. However, you are responsible for everything you chose to think, feel, say and do about circumstances in your past, and it is those choices that created your present.

Your choice where you wish to go next.

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Creativity Matters Not, If You Don’t Ship.

I’m a creative, so I know well the pains of a creative life.

Impossible expectations, relentless self criticism and, above all, the paralysing grip of fear—the lizard brain.

We deny it’s fear though. It’s easier to make up excuses that deny the existence of fear, than it is to admit to the terror of exposure by putting our work, and by extension ourselves, out there.

Our most common stalling tactic is, “It’s not good enough.”

Seth Godin is right—shipping matters above all else.

The person who ships, and fails, the most, wins.

Now the tricky part of this is your concept of ‘winning’—success.

You can fuck yourself up by not acknowledging, examining and addressing an unconsciously preconceived or culturally programmed idea of success.

I used to believe that success was defined by money and eyeballs.

Now I have a much simpler aspiration—to love what I do and create, and to strive to do my very best at both every day.

“What about money?” you ask.

Let me put it this way.

If you want to create amazing work, you need to:

  • Focus on your creative output. Every. Day.
  • Slog at your creative process. Every. Day.

Every creative starts out with shit work.

The only way through is via sheer perseverance and the slog of practice through repeated shipping and failure.

There’s no escaping it. Practice makes perfect. Talent is interesting but ultimately irrelevant if you never ship.

Now, if you don’t love your creative process or output, you’re going to be hard pressed to get from shit to amazing.

I won’t lie. Sometimes you have to scratch money from the equation, at least at the beginning for some, and for others, the possibility of forever.

It depends on what you want.

If you are focused on money and attention, like it or not, you’re not focused on what matters—your craft and what it takes to get from shit to amazing.

I struck money out of my writing late last year and experienced an incredible change in both my creativity and productivity.

  • Fear and criticism decreased.
  • Commitment and productivity increased.
  • Clarity and inspiration skyrocketed.

Freed from the self-imposed constraints of fear and ego, I was finally able to view my work from a realistic and pragmatic point of view.

Today, I love my 48-hourly, self-assigned deadline to publish a post here every other day. I find it easy to sit down and write for the sake of honing my craft every day.

Not all my posts are sterling. That’s not the point. The point is to ship and to learn and improve from the repeated process of shipping.

You need to ask yourself:

  • What do I really want? A tangible result I can work on, or a constipated dream that frustrates me?
  • What is success to me? Does it encourage or inhibit my ability to do the work and ship?
  • Do I love what I create? Enough to create it for its own sake, even when imperfect?
  • Do I love my creative process? Even when it’s hard? Or do I fight with it and have to force myself unwillingly and unhappily?
  • Do I make excuses to avoid the daily discipline of practice and shipping?

Here’s a little pamphlet by Seth Godin entitled Ship it to get you started.

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Mind Body Connection: Not Simply Mind Over Matter.

Apologies for my recent absence. I’ve just emerged from a month-long recovery from liver difficulties—scans revealed a 10 cm hepatic hemangioma in my right lobe.

Despite the inconvenience and discomfort, it has been an extremely enlightening month, and my illness got me thinking about how I utilise my mind body connection as a tool to facilitate physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Mind body connection is the concept that asserts that psychological perspectives and their resulting emotional states influence physical health.

The concept is nothing new. Ancient medicinal traditions like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)1 and Ayurveda2 have been aware of the relationship between the non-physical states (psychological, emotional, spiritual) and physical disease for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Today, scientists dub this phenomenon psychoneuroimmunology3—the study of interactions between behavior, the brain and the immune system.

Here are the principles of mind body connection as I understand them:

  • Mind and body are one.

    There is no separation between the non-physical states, comprising psychological, emotional, spiritual, and the physical state.

  • The mind body connection functions both ways.

    Physical state can be used to understand, analyse and diagnose non-physical state, vice versa.

  • Physical issues from the non-physical.

    Physical state is the result of non-physical states sustained over time.

  • Neither has precedence over the other.

    Both physical and non-physical states are just as important for holistic well-being.

I was introduced to the mind body connection concept in my late 20s.

It was early 2008. I was in my fourth year of chronic fatigue.

Medical intervention had done nothing for me, and there was no end in sight for my suffering.

Though largely housebound, I did manage to escape to town on my better days. It was on one such day that I found myself perusing the shelves of the local bookshop. An ornate cover caught my eye. It was The Secret.

It was the story of Morris Goodman4 that resonated with me the most. I remember thinking, “If he could recreate normal function after having irreparably damaged his cervical vertebrae, diaphragm, larynx, bladder and kidneys, what is chronic fatigue in comparison?”

I had nothing to lose. So I decided to give this mind-over-matter concept a go.

The actual process was nowhere as simple or easy as it sounds.

My first attempt was in March 2008. I created a virtual reality within my mind by drawing on memories of being fit and strong, and I saturated my body in the mental and emotional sensation for 48 hours.

On the third day, I went for a two hour bush walk at a healthy pace and actually enjoyed it. I got home and I didn’t crash, like I should have. Days passed, and I remained crash-free.

I thought I was healed but it was not to last.

True, from that point on, I was no longer bed or housebound. However, I experienced frequent relapses that could last days and weeks.

To say I was disappointed was an understatement, but the experience only fuelled my determination to get to the bottom of the matter.

It was evident that I achieved a healing of sorts. My next question, then, was, “Why wasn’t it complete?” What did I fail to do?

I was on my own, as I could not find the answers I sought anywhere, none that resonated or applied with me anyway.

So I fell back on the only things I did know and worked for me—self observation and analysis. I worked tirelessly to piece together what little I did know, and figure out the rest through time, experience, trial and error.

I had no guarantees of success. Only hope and determination drove me.

It took me three years, but finally, one sunny afternoon in 2011, I was suddenly blinded by the truth as all the pieces of the puzzle suddenly slammed together.

My physical disease—chronic fatigue—was the manifestation of unconscious cowardice and escapism.

I realised that, for the entirety of my life, I had lacked the courage to:

  • Say no to those who would control me,
  • Say yes to what I genuinely desired to achieve, or, failing both,
  • End my life to escape the limbo of it all.

Unable to live or to die, I unconsciously created the perfect compromise—a perfect state of living death.

No sooner than the revelation struck than I had the most bizarre experience. It felt like a cloud of grey particles, minuscule and translucent, evacuating my body through the pores of my skin to float up into the air above my head before mysteriously vanishing, leaving me stunned.

Today, it’s almost exactly four years on, and I have not had a single relapse.

It was also the first and the last time I effected any complete healing using the power of mind alone.

This experience was the turning point in my belief in mind body connection. It totally transformed how I perceived physical disease.

I was an outspoken advocate for the use of mind body connection as healing modality for a time after my own recovery. However, I have since realised that the concept can be dangerous in the hands of those who would misuse or abuse it due to ignorance, irresponsibility, or both.

The mind body connection is NOT an excuse to:

  • Evade evaluation or treatment by medical professionals, or
  • Dismiss or shirk responsibility for necessary changes to physical areas of life, like diet, fitness, lifestyle and environment etc.

The mind body connection is also most definitely NOT:

  • Effortless, simple or easy, or
  • An instant, or even quick, fix for either physical or non-physical disease, or
  • A purely ‘in the mind’ or faith-based modality.

Any person who approaches the mind body connection thus is misinformed, irresponsible and liable to harm themselves and others.

Today, I use my mind body connection to diagnose and treat psychological, emotional and spiritual disease within myself, by focusing on physical disease as secondary symptomatology rather than primary problem.

In particular, I use my mind body connection in two specific ways:

  • As a secondary and complementary tool to physical treatment and/or therapy of physical disease as recommended by a medical professional, and
  • As an analytical tool to mine for psychological, emotional and spiritual blind spots to assist in my pursuit of self mastery.

Specifically as a physical healing modality, I have used my mind body connection in recent years to:

  • Assist with the elimination of certain physical illnesses that used to plague me frequently, for example tonsillitis, systemic candidiasis.
  • Assist in reducing the frequency and/or severity of other physical conditions, for example migraines.
  • Resolve or ameliorate persistent psychological, emotional and spiritual issues that haunted me for years, for example suicide ideation, depression, anxiety.

My recent bout of liver difficulties was a wake up call for several long-standing physical, psychological and emotional issues that I had failed to address for years.

For the sake of brevity, I shan’t go into all the details, however here are the salient points.

I started noticing mild symptoms four months ago. Those symptoms escalated and January was my crisis point. I went to see my doctor, took the prescribed medication and went for all the necessary tests and scans.

While I slowly recuperated over February, I scrutinised the mind body connection and significance for my disease.

It is interesting to note that in both TCM5 and Ayurveda6, the liver is considered the seat of anger.

A hemangioma is a benign tumour, caused by a proliferation of normal and abnormal blood vessels filled with blood. Giant hepatic hemangiomas7, what I have, can result in circulatory complications, due to the slowing of blood flow8 through the tangle of blood vessels.

In Ayurveda, blood is rakta dhatu, the vehicle that transports prana—life—through the body. Funnily enough, rakta dhatu has a special relationship with the liver9. The Sanskrit word for liver is yakrut, ya meaning circulation and krut meaning action.

I was an extremely angry child, who grew into an extremely angry adult. Rage was my default reaction to everything that went wrong in my life.

What I failed to realise, however, is that anger is merely another form of victimhood, another way of avoiding responsibility for my life experiences.

I have the power to choose and transmute my perspectives, perceptions and interpretations of everything I experience in life, from destructive and disempowering to constructive and empowering. If an experience is perceived as undesired, it is because I have chosen to interpret it as such and created it so.

I also had a lifelong obsession with death and suicide, for I not only hated people, I hated life itself for putting me here in this body to suffer.

An obsession with death is merely another form of escapism. A desire for death, at best slows the flow of life, and at worst inhibits life, with tentacle-like ramifications in every area of life.

It impacted my ability to be financially responsible, for in wishing for death to claim me every moment of every day, I blocked myself from taking responsibility for the reality of the long-term—living life.

It impacted my ability to sustain much needed changes to my diet and fitness regime. I’d felt the intuitive urges to implement these changes for years, but I either kept putting it off, or failed to make the changes stick.

Liver. Too much anger.
Blood. Not enough life.
Both. Self created.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

None of these realisations were a surprise, except perhaps discovery of how chronic suicide obsession can have such insidious and far-reaching ramifications in various life areas.

My physical disease was really just the last kick in the bum, a final warning, as if to say, “This is your last chance. Get cracking, or else!”

Such is the reality of life. We get the signs, but often we, like spoilt children, wilfully choose to ignore them until we have no other choice. I am no different, for all I persevere in the practice of self mastery.

Did I experience any ‘miraculous healing’ from my most recent experience? No, I seriously don’t think so.

I did experience very rapid resolution of all my symptoms.

{The doctor initially suspected gallstones and prescribed medication accordingly, which I took diligently. Didn’t help though. Not only that, I discovered that I am allergic to penicillin. Oh joy. LOL.}

I attribute this to the fact that, in resolving all the non-physical blocks, the unconscious psychological, emotional and spiritual patterns, that had obstructed or sabotaged me all these years, I was finally able to swiftly and easily implement all the physical and non-physical changes I should have done so years ago.

It was the combination of these, both physical and non-physical changes, that assisted in my rapid recovery.

Could this all be merely spurious correlation? Maybe, who knows? After all, correlation is not causality and hindsight is never 20/20.

However, insight is 20/20, and I hold to the belief that, in most cases, it doesn’t matter how I come by my insight, so long as that insight is accurate and aids me to transmute the non-constructive into the constructive.

For example, delving into Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda only provided interesting clues that either fit or didn’t. If I was out to delude myself, then spurious correlation would have harmed me. However, in my case, the clues I discovered didn’t reveal anything new, but more importantly, served to reinforce what I already knew needed to be done.

I would like to stress that, with the exception of my chronic fatigue healing, all the physical changes I mention in this post were achieved through a combination of addressing the non-physical states (psychological, emotional and spiritual) as well as making necessary changes on the physical level (diet, fitness, medication, supplementation etc.).

Nowhere am I asserting that the mind body connection is a wholly ‘mind-over-matter’ affair.

What I AM trying to say is that physical changes may be difficult, or impossible, to effect and sustain without first addressing unconscious non-physical blocks, and that’s where the mind body connection truly shines.

This is far from an exhaustive article on the subject of mind body connection. I welcome your questions and opinions in the comments below for further discussion.

1 Tan, S., Tillisch, K., & Mayer, E. (2004). Functional somatic syndromes: emerging biomedical models and traditional Chinese medicine. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1(1), 35-40.
2 Jayasundar, R. (2010). Ayurveda: a distinctive approach to health and disease. Curr Sci, 98, 908-14.
3 Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., McGuire, L., Robles, T. F., & Glaser, R. (2002). Psychoneuroimmunology: psychological influences on immune function and health. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 70(3), 537.
4 Original CNN transcript here.
5 Ots, T. (1990). The angry liver, the anxious heart and the melancholy spleen. Culture, medicine and psychiatry, 14(1), 21-58.
6 Shearer, E. (2005). The Role of Ayurveda vs. Western Medicine in the Treatment of Hepatitis C. [online] California College of Ayurveda. Available at: http://www.ayurvedacollege.com/articles/students/hepatitis [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015].
7 Hoekstra, L. T., Bieze, M., Erdogan, D., Roelofs, J. J., Beuers, U. H., & van Gulik, T. M. (2013). Management of giant liver hemangiomas: an update. Expert review of gastroenterology & hepatology, 7(3), 263.
8 Caseiro-Alves, F., Brito, J., Araujo, A. E., Belo-Soares, P., Rodrigues, H., Cipriano, A., … & Mathieu, D. (2007). Liver haemangioma: common and uncommon findings and how to improve the differential diagnosis. European radiology, 17(6), 1544-1554.
9 California College of Ayurveda, (2010). Rakta Dhatu: A closer look. [online] Available at: http://www.ayurvedacollege.com/Ayurveda/rakta-dhatu-closer-look [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015].

Disclaimer:

  • There isn’t, as yet, a universally agreed upon methodology for the use of the mind body connection.

    Different people who have experienced success with its application have used different approaches.

    I merely describe my personal experience, and am not prescribing, advocating or promoting my approach.

    I personally believe that efficacy of the methodology differs from individual to individual, for various reasons.

  • I am NOT a medical professional, and my words and opinions do NOT constitute medical advice.

    If you are in any way physically, psychologically, or emotionally indisposed, please seek professional advice from a qualified medical professional.

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Creativity Is Love.

There is nothing mysterious about creativity. There is no magic ingredient.

Creativity boils down to these few simple questions:

  • Do you love what you do, as you love a lover?
  • Are you irresistibly drawn to create what you do?
  • Are you painstakingly devoted to its improvement, however hard that may be?

Creatives create first and foremost for themselves and not for external reward or validation, for the adoration of their craft is motive enough.

It doesn’t matter what the craft is—writing, design, thinking, software development, podcasts etc.

Without love, creativity is hard to come by or contrived. Worst yet is artificial ‘creativity’ driven by fears like reputation, monetary, competition, perfectionism etc.

Fear is not love. Fear drains you of all good things and can only create unsustainable, shallow works.

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Gratitude For Suffering.

I grew up in a Buddhist environment. As such, I was exposed to the Buddhist concept of nirvana, which is to be free of dukkha, commonly translated as ‘suffering’.

As a child, I made the cessation of dukkha my goal.

I resolved that, if I am to be forced to exist in a world that I do not wish to exist in, then, at the very least, I should free myself from the suffering of my existence.

What I didn’t understand at that tender age—nor for most of my adult life—is that ‘cessation of dukkha’ cannot be accomplished via the literal application of the phrase.

  • You cannot cease to suffer.
  • You cannot escape or hide from suffering.
  • You cannot ignore or deny suffering.

Suffering is inherent to life, and absolutely essential for a well-lived life.

Suffering is a gift, one we have taught ourselves to fear. We desire to eradicate it. We fight everything we do not understand. Human nature.

Yet suffering is within. How do we fight ourselves?

Suffering is not to be overcome.

Suffering is to be:

  1. Seen,
  2. Understood, and finally,
  3. Embraced.

“How have I created my suffering?” is the question least asked by a person who suffers.

Instead, we ask, “How can I stop suffering?” And then we turn to products and services for relief—rarely for genuine resolution.

All fail.

They may succeed at numbing or distracting us. However, there is nothing, not now or ever, that can hand over the cessation of suffering in exchange for a fistful or truckload of money.

In the Anuradha Sutta, Buddha himself is claimed to have said, “Formerly, and also now, I make known just suffering and the cessation of suffering.”

He was not the first, nor will he be the last, to expound on the nature of suffering. Yet he was unable to liberate all who heard him. Why?

The cessation of suffering begins with self. No words can teach the experience needed. It’s really not that deep or complicated an answer but we do not like to hear it.

There is no shortcut. In this, our modern, shallow, impatient culture, we have no desire for self mastery. We just want relief, yesterday.

Therefore we suffer more than ever.

Instead of fighting suffering, we should learn to see suffering as a helpful beeping alarm or flashing light.

An invaluable opportunity to engage in the process of self mastery.

  • “Why am I suffering?”
  • “What do I fear?”
  • “Why am I angry?”
  • “Why do I hurt?”

The other thing we do not like to hear is this—Responsibility for our suffering lies with ourselves. It is never anybody or anything else’s fault that we suffer.

You suffer because you hold some perspective that translates your experience as something to suffer over.

What is that perspective?
What is that belief?

Think.
See.
Understand.

And in doing so, you may attain freedom from suffering, which in the most practical terms for your everyday life, is to:

  • See dukkha as the incredible gift it is,
  • Feel gratitude for its presence in your life,
  • Seize the opportunity it presents to understand and master your bedevilments and achieve freedom from them via your understanding.
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Australia Day. Invasion Day.

Australia’s national day is less than 24 hours away. Many call it Australia Day.

But for the majority of Australia’s First Nations, the indigenous peoples of this continent, 26 January is Invasion Day, Survival Day.

I find it apt that I stumbled upon the Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr., on Seth Godin’s blog less than a week ago.

King wrote his letter from a solitary confinement jail cell in Birmingham in 1963. At the time, Birmingham was “the most segregated city in America”, notorious for its violence against African Americans.

More on that later…

Apparently, there are still people today who believe that “the notion of invasion day” is nothing more than “an attempt by the political Left to show that Australian society, nation and settlement is illegitimate.”

The following passages are quoted from Michael McLaren and Keith Windschuttle, from an interview conducted a mere year ago entitled ‘The myth of ‘Invasion Day’’:

McLaren: The issue of invasion—the settlement. Historically speaking. […] My belief is that it wasn’t, and couldn’t be defined as an invasion, what occurred [during] the first decade or so of white settlement, in that there was no declared war. There was no, as far as I recall, as far as I’ve read, no overarching indoctrination coming from the king, for example, saying we need to conquer. In fact, quite the opposite was the modus operandi of the British.

Windschuttle: The British declared sovereignty […] over the eastern half of the Australian continent in 1770 but that was to warn off other European powers. They didn’t invade the place. Settlement didn’t happen until 1788.

The Aborigines never resisted white society. […] They discovered that these white men had a regular supply of food and right throughout the continent and history of Australia, from 1788 until […] the 1930s, the Aborigines came in to white society.

They discovered that, instead of the arduous life of the hunter-gatherer, and most hunter-gatherers found it very difficult to maintain a food supply especially in the winter because food supplies are seasonal. Even in Sydney, one of the most fruitful parts of Australia, the Aborigines went hungry and looked emaciated and some people thought they were starving because the fish supply ran out and fish was their staple food. The fish in winter in Sydney leave the harbour and leave the shallow waters and go off and breed […] and there are no fish or are very difficult to catch.

But the white people, the Aborigines found, had a regular supply of food. […] They could trade off, give up hunting and gathering and live off white people in return for three meals a day and 52 weeks a year.

Basically that was the deal everywhere the whites went, that was the deal the Aborigines accepted. They accepted the presence of the white people because it offered them one overwhelming advantage for them.

The patronising tone of their convictions was almost too much to take.

  • The absence of declaration of war is irrelevant. This is not about legal niceties and military procedure.

    Invasion here refers to a collection of actions, taken and not taken by British colonists, military, civilian or otherwise, that constituted a identifiable starting point to the rapid degradation of First Nations population, continuity of language and culture and mental and physical health over a period of two hundred years.

    Actions that began with the the arrival of said British colonists and their appropriation of traditional homelands on the grounds that the indigenous population do not ‘own’ the lands in the British sense of the word.

    The precise terminology used to justify these actions, coined in 1835, is “Terra Nullius“. In other words, “No one’s here. The land is ours.”

  • The comments implying a lack of “regular supply of food” truly irked me.

    What of the fact that the colonists were rapidly taking over traditional lands upon which the First Nation peoples were dependent on for hunting and gathering? I suppose that doesn’t account for lack of food sources and starvation?

    And, oh, what about disease? How about mental, emotional and spiritual depression resulting from the loss of homeland leading to listlessness and a general sense of existential hopelessness? Wouldn’t those indirectly lead to “emaciation” as well?

    How would Windschuttle feel, I wonder, if he were evicted from his home and not be assured of any scrap of land to live and call home thereafter, in a world where he can be assured that the majority will not treat him as a person, much less an equal? How would his motivation levels be like?

History is not objective. However, one can easily deduce the attitudes of the original British colonists simply by observing ongoing discrimination of Australian First Nations today.

Attitudes are hereditary, passed down from generation to generation. Two hundred years is not such a long time. Look at the discrimination of Native and African Americans today. There is not much difference.

But wait, there is. At least the American Constitution recognises Native Americans and African Americans.

They are not perfect. For example, though the American Constitution “finally guaranteed African Americans the rights of freedom and full citizenship“, the US government has only restored “limited recognition of Native sovereignty and government-Native relations are perhaps best described as those of internal neo-colonialism“.

The Australian Constitution, in contrast, “mentions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples only to discriminate. Until the 1967 Referendum, Indigenous Australians were excluded even from being counted in the tally of citizens“.

I now quote sections from Martin Luther King’s letter that I feel are pertinent to the ongoing discrimination of First Nation peoples in Australia, in mental and health care, employment, education, housing, access to justice and just plain humane treatment in day-to-day situations in public.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea.

There is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.

We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with.

Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

Many activists have sacrificed much in their dedication to nonviolent direct action, striving to bring to light the tension that undeniably exists in Australian everyday life regarding First Nations treatment, rights and discrimination.

Change begins with acknowledgement of wrongs to be redressed. Kevin Rudd’s apology to Australia’s First Nations was a first step. There’s more to be done yet.

There is a call to change the date of Australia Day. I am not Australian, therefore the date and event hold no particular significance to me.

However, I’m pretty sure that, if your ancestors had died en masse, with a population decrease of over 87% in just over a hundred years, as a direct consequence of the arrival of a certain Group X on your homeland on a certain Date X, you would be ire-stricken if I insisted on celebrating the arrival of Group X on Date X.

Especially if I insisted on making Date X an annual, national, celebratory event, that makes no mention whatsoever of the suffering your ancestors endured, a pain with ramifications echoing down through the generations to your present day.

That is Australia Day to the First Nations of this continent.

A day that precipitated over two hundred years of unacknowledged or dismissed suffering and sorrow. Two hundred years of forced ‘civilisation’, of not being allowed to speak their own languages or perpetuate their own cultures, of having their children forcibly removed and basic rights ignored or removed. Of being denied employment because they are not white. Of being jeered at on the streets, or being spoken to as if they were universal delinquents or infants.

A mere 3% of the current population, yes, but are minorities not still human? Do they not matter? As people? Are they not human too?

The Australian Government’s own web site states, “Australia’s first inhabitants, the Aboriginal people, are believed to have migrated from some unknown point in Asia to Australia between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago.”

To not merely survive, but thrive for such an impressive span of time on a continent as unforgiving as Australia, with the proliferation of such an array of cultural diversity with hundreds of groups and languages that enjoy unique relationships and continuity between them through song and story from one end of the continent to the other?

Doesn’t that deserve more than just mere recognition? Doesn’t that deserve respect?

Australia Day. Invasion Day. Survival Day.

The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.

— John E. E. Dalberg, Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity, [1877].

Whatever you choose to do tomorrow, I hope you can spare a moment to consider how you can and will rise to the challenge of John E. E. Dalberg’s quote above.

As for me, the writing of this is my humble contribution to the cause.

I acknowledge the Kuku Yalanji people as the Tradtional Owners of the country on which I live and I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

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Destroy The Past. Reprised.

My post Destroy Your Past was featured on Mystic Medusa’s blog two weeks ago and precipitated a lively discussion on the various ways of and motivations for destroying one’s past.

Mystic Medusa’s crowd is a very forward-thinking bunch, who mostly espouse Mystic’s famous motto, “Stay Stuck And You Are Fuqed”.

The discussion enabled me to think about and clarify what I meant in my original post.

Let’s start by addressing my title faux pas.

Why ‘destroy’? It’s so negative.

My honest mistake. ‘Destroy’ is a very harsh word indeed, being defined as:

end the existence of (something) by damaging or attacking it

  • ruin emotionally or spiritually
  • defeat utterly
  • kill by humane means

Upon looking it up, I realised it wasn’t even accurate.

I equated the acts of ‘discarding’ and ‘deleting’ with ‘destroy’, which I equated with ‘getting rid of’. Crude. Sloppy.

Drop Your Past’ is my wording and title of choice now. My apologies.

Even so, destroying my past is impractical!

Obviously, Carlos Castaneda’s quote is a metaphor. Few of us are able to “create a fog” around us and our lives in this modern age. What would become of our professional credibility?

Here is the practical process for dropping one’s past:

  • Let go of the irrelevant, stale and stagnant. This may be physical possessions, digital collections, mental philosophies, emotional attachments, spiritual ideologies and social relationships.
  • Cease repeating narratives related to or derived from any of the above, in written or spoken form.
  • Focus instead on a narrative of your here and now.

Isn’t that rewriting history for the ego? Keeping what’s nice and rejecting what’s not?

Relevant is not equivalent with nice. Dropping the past is not about avoiding the unpleasant and painting only an ego-appeasing rosy picture.

It is about authenticity, born of a dedication to your here and now, which may or may not be pretty.

Why relevance? Because we all change and what was once relevant and productive for us may not be today. However, we irrationally hold onto many things and this clutter, material and immaterial, stunts our growth.

Consider irrelevance also to be the the discarded rind and pips of a fruit completely consumed. In this case, relevance is about extracting every last productive lesson you can from your past and then discarding the rest.

The narrative from such an approach is neither stale nor stagnant. In fact, it will prove beneficial to not only yourself, but others as well, in being practical and empowering.

Is it always necessary?

Though the large majority of the community favoured the concept of dropping one’s past, a thoughtful minority pointed out that:

  • It isn’t always necessary, and that in fact,
  • An overzealous attitude may result in unnecessary regret.

I actually agree with both points. I was once a victim of my own overzealousness. I deleted posts from previous iterations of my blog instead of archiving them, as I do today. I lost a lot of interesting and useful material unnecessarily.

A carefully thought out and managed archival system is key. Otherwise, you will simply be a hoarder.

What’s the difference between archiving and hoarding?

Archival is built on a thoughtful process of:

  • Careful evaluation of material for inclusion,
  • Regular reviewing for relevance, and
  • Sensible, not obsessive, attention to one’s cataloguing methodology.

Archives are healthy and hoards unhealthy because:

  • Archives are functional and utilized, whereas hoards rot under literal and figurative cobwebs.
  • Archives contribute to one’s creativity, whereas hoards only create physical and psychological chaos.
  • Archivists utilise a balance of logic and intuition, whereas hoarders are slave to irrationality masquerading as practicality.

I’m trying but I can’t!

Sometimes there may be themes, that you’re trying desperately to release, that simply refuse to go. It’s like you’re stuck with it.

It may not be time yet. You do not understand it yet. You have not mastered the significance or the lesson yet.

Dropping your past is not about escaping suffering or difficulty. It is about releasing the irrelevant. Obstacles are unpleasant but relevant to growth.

Work on understanding the issue or obstacle. When you have mastered its presence in your life, you will find dropping it easy.

Why is it so hard? I can’t seem to let go.

You currently identify strongly with your past self or selves. It feels like committing suicide.

Though your past selves are no longer embodied in flesh and blood, you continue to give them life through your constant attention and narration of them.

Your need for your stories is stronger than your need for freedom. Your stories may be convenient i.e. getting attention, sympathy etc. They may justify victimhood mentality or explain a, “Why I can’t…” mentality.

Examine with brutal honesty why your narratives are important to you and you will understand why you can’t let them go.

But I share these stories with my family and friends too!

If you find yourself constantly sharing victimhood or lack of progress stories with friends for commiseration bonding, you may need to drop those friends too.

Fear of rejection is another reason why many find it difficult to drop their past. It is a fear you must face if you want to grow.

If you can’t drop these relationships, then stop participating in the same old narratives. Refuse to comment. Keep quiet. Change the subject. Leave. Or explain your new perspective. If they ridicule you, it’s time to reconsider the relevance of these relationships.

And finally…

Letting dreams go.

R(aqua/tauri) wrote, “The hardest and strangest part is also letting dreams go. I’m a dreamer and my dreams became my identity. It wasn’t healthy.”

I dreamt of being an internet entrepreneur for seven years. I couldn’t see that it wasn’t for me. In the end, I recognised the reality but it hurt to let it go. I had identified with it. It was like committing suicide.

Not all dreams are aligned with our authentic selves and we may have invested years of time, effort and money, blood, sweat and tears into them. Yet these are most important to release for us to progress to the next chapter of our lives.

There will be grieving, a period of emptiness, loss of identity and bewilderment. This is natural.

As Julia Cameron wrote:

Our tears prepare the ground for our future growth.

— The Artist’s Way

I hope this clarifies your understanding what I wrote in my original post Destroy Your Past.

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Suicide: No Longer An Option.

I have brushed the gates of Death but once in my life.

It was 2004 and my platelet count had plummeted to double-digit figures as a result of dengue hemorrhagic fever.

There may have been a handful of other incidents I can’t verify.

A mysterious attack of pneumonia as a four-year-old that ended with a doctor pushing a plastic tube up my nose and down my windpipe to drain my lungs of fluid.

A month-long battle against leptospirosis two years ago during which I ran temperatures of 42°C for a nearly a week.

Death likes to seek me via illness, it appears.

Yet even when I was well, Death was never far away, for It was never far from my thoughts.

Death was always my seductive, elusive panacea, my potential escape pod from what I felt was a horror of existence in human form.

Just as depression was always with me, so was suicide ideation. The two go hand-in-hand.

Death was always an option. I simply had to choose.

And I very nearly did a couple of times.

Yet that option is now closed to me.

I have chosen.

I choose to live.

Is it because life has gotten better that I have changed my mind, or rather, made up my mind?

Yes and no.

My life has changed drastically in many ways, yet it has not and probably cannot change in many other ways as well.

I have achieved a peace within myself I never thought I could. However, I cannot change my neurological hardwiring, and I cannot change the prevalent social and cultural rejection of neurological divergence.

Life is not any easier.

Sometimes choices are made not because things are easier, better or nicer.
Sometimes choices are made because you have to just make up your own damned mind to face whatever comes.

Lingering in a twilight of life while still alive, waiting and hoping to die, is not a way to live. It is not even a way to die. It is limbo, an escape that fails to be even that.

Such a mentality overshadows every thought, every choice and every action one takes and I came to the realisation that I never committed to life because I wanted out so badly all the time for most of my life.

I have never truly lived, in that case. My life has been merely another form of undeath. A truly sobering thought.

I cannot allow myself to continue this way.

Still, it was with tears that I bid those stern gates farewell.

They have been my constant companion and temptation my entire life. I’d been loitering in their shadow so long, unable to cross, yet cowardly refusing to leave.

Hedging my bets. Always keeping my escape pod option handy.

No longer an option. I turn the engines off, close the hatch and toss the keys.

I turn from those forbidding ebony gates and walk back into the technicolor chaotic world of life.

Come what may, I have chosen.

I choose to live.

And I’ll stand by that till Death comes to claim me of its own accord.

Perhaps those gates will not appear so stern on my final return.

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Depression: Choose Otherwise.

Depression can be a habit. Entrenched by years of repeating the same pattern of reaction triggered by certain events or people in your life.

Depression doesn’t have to be your default response to undesired experiences. Depression is only one possible response.

The question is, “Do you believe you have the capability and the power to choose and experience a different response?”

Becoming aware of your power to choose otherwise may be your first step to slowly developing a strategy for managing or preventing severe depressive episodes.

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Mysticism Is To Me… A Filter.

Mysticism is to me, quite a number of things. Therefore, I shall tackle the subject over a number of posts. This is the third. Here is the rest of the series:

Mysticism is to me… a filter. A lens. A way I choose to see the world, its events and all my experiences in it.

Everyone is selective about what they allow into their sphere of consciousness. Everyone rejects some themes, subjects, people, events and objects as irrelevant, while accepting others.

We all have “spam” filters.

Filters work by sorting incoming data into “relevant” and “irrelevant”, as determined by a set of criteria or rules. Just like Gmail’s wonderful filters.

Mysticism is my filter, and my principles are the criteria by which I judge the relevance or irrelevance, importance or unimportance, benefit or harm in incoming data from the world.

This data can be music, news, videos, people, locations, events, books, articles, podcasts, conversations, hashtag conversations and other social media, pictures, movies, activities etc. Anything and everything that enters my sphere of consciousness.

Anything that can enter my mind and leave its indelible color or stain.

For example:

One of my principles states that I choose to focus on acts of affirmation instead of acts of violence.

This rule does not see me completely ignoring the news. However, it does ensure that I avoid watching or hearing anything that is based on, glorifies or condones violence and gore.

That precludes me from most media today, including a lot of movies and music, but I’m not complaining. My mind is clearer and freer of violent sounds and imagery and I am much happier this way.

Another principle states that I respect myself first and foremost on all levels, for example and especially my time, energy and attention.

This is yet another principle that delimits not only the type but the amount of media I consume every day. Anything that does not directly or indirectly contribute to my creativity, i.e., cute kittens and random YouTube videos, is either completely excluded, or only allowed in extremely small and brief amounts.

We all have a collection of “rules”, mostly unconsciously accrued during the course of our life, that comprise our filter.

The question is, “Does your filter assist you in creating constructive experiences that you desire, enjoy as well as enrich your life?

Mysticism as my filter helps me to maintain a daily state that I desire, which I define as having:

  • Clarity,
  • Contentment,
  • Peace,
  • Joy, and
  • Gratitude.

To name but a few.

Of course, these are characteristics that differ in their definition and experience in every person. What is peace to me may not be understood by another. What brings joy to me may not work for another.

Awareness is key to creating and maintaining a filter that works for you, and not against you.

This is how mysticism is to me, a filter, assisting me in creating experiences that I desire in my everyday life.

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Focus Creates Change.

The more we reward the behaviours we admire, the less likely the selfish will be able to take advantage of our labelling errors.

— Seth Godin, Babies and bathwater

You can’t change people, and you definitely can’t change organisations, religions, governments etc.

So how do we create change in the world?

By focusing on what you desire.
By giving power to what you desire.

Attention creates. This is only woo-woo when you chant it like a mantra and expect change to fall from the sky as a result.

Direct your resources, your attention, energy, time and money, to the people and organisations who do the work, and not just talk, to help create the reality you desire.

The accountability is yours.

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